Three Virginia Tech doctoral candidates and four postdoctoral fellows were inducted into the Edward A. Bouchet Graduate Honor Society on March 31 at Yale University. They are the latest members of Virginia Tech’s chapter of the honor society named for the first African American to earn a Ph.D. from Yale University in 1876.

The honor society was founded in 2005 by Yale and Howard universities and holds an annual Conference on Diversity and Graduate Education at Yale to celebrate inductees. The society’s goal is to create a network of scholars and professionals who “serve as examples of scholarship, leadership, character, service, and advocacy for students who have been traditionally underrepresented in the academy,” according to its webpage. Virginia Tech is one of 19 university partners with Bouchet Society chapters. Each year, the Graduate School receives nominations for membership in the society and a selection committee chooses the new members. This is the first year that postdoctoral fellows have been among the inductees.

“This year, we had a stellar cohort of inductees to represent Virginia Tech and highlight the breadth and novelty of the institutions’ research training across multiple disciplines,” said Shernita Lee, Graduate School assistant dean and director of the Office of Diversity, Inclusion, and Strategic Partnerships. “The inductees not only excel academically but through the five pillars of the honor society to ignite change for multiple populations and communities.”

Karen DePauw, vice president emerita for graduate education and dean emerita of the Graduate School, also was honored at the induction ceremony. She received the Bouchet Society’s inaugural service award at the ceremony for her service to and impact on graduate education.

The following students and postdoctoral fellows were inducted into the honor society:

Giuseppe Cotardo is a postdoctoral fellow in mathematics. Cotardo earned his Ph.D. at University College Dublin in Ireland. His research interest is algebraic coding theory, the mathematical theory behind reliable digital communications. His work mainly focuses on rank-metric codes and their algebraic and combinatorial properties. This research area is highly interdisciplinary and connects mathematics with information theory, cryptography, electrical engineering, and computer science. He is one of the organizers of an international seminar for Ph.D. students and postdocs and is committed to inviting speakers of different ethnicities, genders, and geographic areas to create a diverse and inclusive community of junior researchers. He was and is currently involved in organizing academic events for women in mathematics to inspire students to pursue a mathematics career and equip them to thrive in the discipline.

Catherine L. Cotrupi is a Ph.D. candidate in higher education. Her research focuses on how and to what extent white faculty members resisted upholding whiteness and white supremacy culture during a critical event in their service learning and community-engaged (SLCE) practice. She works as a graduate research assistant with two faculty members on their community-engaged research and outreach efforts: one funded by an National Science Foundation CAREER award contributing to knowledge of students’ pathways into engineering influenced by collaborations between P-12 schools, industries, and higher education; the other funded by an National Science Foundation CIVIC award supporting the planning and implementation of innovative civic technology-based efforts to improve organizational capacities of communities to respond to the problem of extreme heat events, which disproportionately impact low-income communities. Cotrupi’s life’s work focuses on educating herself and others on how to have a positive, sustainable, and critical impact through the shared work of campus-community engagement. She has taught an undergraduate course on the best practices of SLCE for the past eight years, a graduate-level course for two, and she is currently the only non-faculty member of a team working to develop a graduate certificate in community engagement at Virginia Tech.

Tuwanda L. Green is a postdoctoral fellow in architecture focusing on human-centric design theories and methods at Virginia Tech. She is the first African American female to earn a Ph.D. in architecture and design research at Virginia Tech, and currently teaches at the Washington, D.C.-Alexandria Architecture Center. Her self-created human-centric design course is based on theories, basic biology, scientific methods, and design processes to help justify the need for human-focused built environments while simultaneously promoting empathy and equity in design. She is also an Academy of Neuroscience for Architecture member and educator actively working with her crossdisciplinary colleagues. She is working with Washington, D.C., public schools to develop a volunteer program that provides a broader exposure of architecture careers to underrepresented elementary through high school students. Her architectural vision is a world where design of every built environment promotes human health and equity.

June Ann Jones is a doctoral candidate in the Alliance for Social, Political, Ethical, and Cultural Thought program. She holds a master’s degree in political science from Vanderbilt University and a bachelor’s degree in government and psychology from the University of Maryland. She has taught courses in political science, philosophy, and environmental issues. Her research focuses on food systems and environmental politics, with her dissertation pertaining to farmer representation and settler colonial institutional power in agriculture in the United States. Jones continues to combine her practical agricultural experience, her research, and her teaching, as they all inform her perspective on sustainable agriculture policy and the issues facing the prospects of post-industrial society in the face of climate change. Her background in agriculture, as a small farmer, has motivated her advocacy for this community and has led to advocate for farmer well-being in her scholarship and in the Maryland State Assembly in drafting legislation. Her critical approach to research aims to empower small farmers in dealing with climate justice issues, fighting against the corporatization of the food system, and protecting access to agricultural land.

Kelsey Reed is a Ph.D. candidate in horticulture and received her bachelor’s degree in plant biology from Southern Illinois University, Carbondale. Her dissertation research focuses on plant tissue culture and genetics, specifically how to enhance single cell plant regeneration using morphogenic transcription factors. She is a leader in both the university and community, currently serving as co-president of the Translational Plant Sciences Center (TPSC) graduate student group as well as encouraging her lab to volunteer at local events, including science fairs. Reed has been recognized as a Fulbright scholar, TPSC Graduate Mentor of the Year, and her department’s Outstanding College of Agriculture and Life Sciences PhD student nominee. She has been an advocate for mentoring, having mentored eight undergraduate and two high school students. Additionally, she has been awarded for her science communication skills during poster presentations, receiving first place at the School of Plant and Environmental Sciences poster competition in 2022 and second place at the TPSC Symposium in 2023. In the future, Reed plans to continue working at the forefront of scientific communication either in industry or government to help provide solutions for global food security.

Joao F. Santos is a postdoctoral researcher investigating software-defined wireless networks at the Commonwealth Cyber Initiative, a research institute headquartered at Virginia Tech. His research interests include radio resource management, radio virtualization, network slicing, and end-to-end network orchestration. He is an advisory board member of Virginia Tech's Center for the Integration of Research, Teaching, and Learning. He received his Ph.D. in electronic and electrical engineering from Trinity College Dublin in Ireland, where he mentored STEM students from underrepresented minority communities and was an avid volunteer at the DU Gamers Society. He earned a bachelor’s degree in telecommunications engineering from Universidade Federal Fluminese, Brazil, where he was a recipient of the CAPES Science Without Borders Scholarship. Ultimately, he aspires to make higher education and high-impact research more accessible to disadvantaged students, filling skill gaps from members of underrepresented minority communities to build an equitable and inclusive cyber-ready workforce.

Welington Santos is a postdoctoral fellow working in the Applied Algebra Research Group at Virginia Tech. His research focuses on fractional decoding of algebraic geometry codes, codes in the NRT metric space, and applications of algebraic-geometry codes to secure distributed matrix multiplication. He received his Ph.D. in mathematics from the Federal University of Paraná, Brazil, in 2019. Since starting his postdoctoral appointment, he has participated in and led outreach programs around coding theory and cryptography to increase underrepresented groups' representation in mathematical sciences graduate programs. He also organized research events for young researchers where they can meet and collaborate with outstanding researchers. Ultimately, he aspires to work at the intersection of research and education, with a passion for learning and sharing new ideas and experiences to include more students in the scientific research life.

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